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Nearly 9,000 in NC have now signed up for subsidized insurance

Nearly 9,000 people in North Carolina have signed up for individual insurance through the glitch-plagued healthcare.gov website, federal officials said Wednesday.

The enrollment numbers are an improvement over October’s total of about 1,600. But they represent a mere fraction of the roughly 1 million North Carolinians who were expected to shop for individual insurance under the new federal mandate.

Enrollment got underway Oct. 1 for individual policies that go into effect in January, but the malfunctioning federal website kept most people from signing up. The Obama administration vowed to improve the site by Nov. 30 and delayed the application deadline by a week, to Dec. 23, for January policies. The site is now working more consistently.

Overall, about 365,000 Americans have signed up for individual insurance, nearly a third of them in California. Only 44 have signed up in Oregon, where the state-run application website is still not working.

That’s far below the 800,000 new marketplace signups that the administration originally projected for October and November. But the administration hasn’t changed its goal of logging 7 million people into marketplace coverage by the end of open enrollment on March 31, 2014.

“We think we’re on track and we will reach the total,” said Michael Hash, director of the office of health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina shows 8,970 enrollments, more than any other Southern state except Kentucky and Florida. A number of states have fewer than 1,000 enrollments.

It remains unclear how many enrollments have been accepted and processed by insurers here. The two insurers selling subsidized policies in North Carolina – Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Coventry Healthcare of the Carolinas – do not disclose their enrollment totals.

“We are getting enrollments on the exchange from all 100 counties,” said Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman.

“There are still concerns with the system, particularly in areas that have already been well-documented – such as back-end issues – making sure enrollees’ data is accurate and complete.”

In other states, insurers have said they have been unable to confirm or to process applicants who have selected policies through healthcare.gov.

Most Americans will be required to have health insurance in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The law mandates coverage, includes fines for lack of coverage, and provides subsidies to those who fall below certain household income levels.

The law also makes it illegal for insurers to refuse to sell insurance to people with pre-existing conditions and limits the additional charge for older customers. McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Tony Pugh contributed.

Murawski: 919-829-8932
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